Tenjin Matsuri Festival and the Yodagawa Fireworks: celebrating the spirit of Osaka | WhyNot!?JAPAN

Tenjin Matsuri Festival and the Yodagawa Fireworks: celebrating the spirit of Osaka

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Tenjin Matsuri Festival and the Yodagawa Fireworks: celebrating the spirit of Osaka



Ben Lindstrom-Ives





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 photo by http://www.osaka-info.jp/jp/events/festivals_events/32.html



              The Tenjin Matsuri festival along with the Yodagawa Fireworks Festival are  both held annually during the months of July and August in Osaka. The summer season in Japan is a time in which much celebration is devoted to both the remembrance of past ancestors and to that of designated prayer towards the ‘Kami’ translated roughly as God or Gods. Numerous festivals are held during the summer season, as it is an important time of spiritual reflection and remembrance for those who have died or passed away. Some of these festivals including Tenjin Matsuri and the Yodagawa Fireworks festival provide a very colorful and active sort of display, towards the ways in which long and highly vested ancient and sacred traditions in Japan’s spiritual heritage are expressed in the religious traditions of Shintoism.



              The Tennjin Matsuri Festival according to the latest scholarly research ,was first initiated and started in the 10th Century C.E. It is incredible to reckon with the fact that this single festival has continued to run over the course of 1000 years, with relatively little change. The days in which Tenjin Matsuri are held in July, lie on the 24 and 25th of the month. July 25th, however, is the most important of these two days, as this is the day in which the fireworks are held near both the land and the river. The Tenjin Matsuri Festival, however, is most notably  held at the noted Tenmangu Shrine, where the god or deity Sugawara Michizane is worshipped. Sugawara Michizane is revered, as he is the deity of learning and scholarship.



              The primary ideology of the festival when it proceeds is for the worshippers simply to make a call to Michizane to make an exodus from his shrine. After a call is made to Michizane, he follows a parade of people who initiate many different festivities and celebrations to entertain him.  The beginning of the festival is coordinated roughly around 3:30 in the afternoon on July 25th when red hatted drummers, become responsible for leading the festival procession throughout Osaka.  Massive floats are carried throughout the city, and the festival  is accompanied by music, the appearance of Sarutahiko a goblin like figure/deity, along with lion and umbrella dancers. Michizane is carried around stored in his shrine, and is carried along by a boy and a girl who lead a sacred cow or ox, which is the symbolic messenger of Michizane. Next to this, one may see a shrine adorned with a golden colored phoenix on top of it. This shrine in fact, is symbolized as the the deified spirit of Michizane. The procession continues to the river where many people who participate in the festival will come aboard special procession boats, on which Bunraku and Noh performances will often be conducted. During the latter part of the evening, a spectacular series of fireworks take place along the Okawa River. This display concludes the festival which endures for around six and a half hours. After the marches and the festival concludes,  Michizane is returned to his final resting place in the Temmangu Shrine at around 10:00



          Similarly to the famed Gion Matsuri Festival of Kyoto, during the course of Tenjin Matsuri, people will often be adorned in traditional Japanese costume and garb, and very large floats will frequently be visible during the course of the celebration.

          Of similar importance to the Tenjin Matsuri Festival, the Yodogawa Fireworks are a spectacular visual event which is held in Osaka every summer. In this case, the festival is held in August. This festival does not have a specific date, as it always begins on the first Saturday in August. This year the festival began on  Saturday August the 5th. Unlike the Tenjin Matsuri Festival, however, it is not an ancient festival at all. The fireworks began only a mere twenty eight years ago in 1989. It nonetheless, has become one of the most notable festivals in Japan in recent times. According to japantravel.com, “This annual event is ranked among the 10 most popular firework in the Kansai region.” Indeed this festival has been known on average to attract around 50,000 people each year. Many people enjoy sitting by the Yodogawa River, as this area of Osaka often provides the most spectacular views of the incoming fireworks. The festival costs around 8,000 yen for reserved seats along with a Bento box and drink provided. For 2,000 yen one could make a reservation for a standing seat.



           What separates the Yodogawa Fireworks from most of the other Firework festivals in the world are that, during this festival one is able to see many different characters formed from the fireworks up in the sky. One is often able to witness the likes of famed anime characters such as Doraemon, Sailor Moon, Goku from Dragon Ball, amongst other persons. Having the ability to see these fireworks, is absolutely comparable to visualizing different constellation such or Orion and the Big Dipper up in the night sky. This festivity is in some ways is even more impressive than ordinary stargazing, in the sense that the characters you see are absolutely clear!



             Both the Tenjin Matsuri Festival and the Yodogawa Fireworks from my perspective bespeak well of Japan’s spiritual and religious heritage. It is one of the few societies left in the world I believe, where prayer and intensive memory is consecrated to our ancestors. These very celebrations denote that the remembrance of our ancestors along with ritual and prayer provide a sufficient means in which humanity expresses its ultimate gratitude for everything which has come in the past, present, and will come in the future. It is a moving and indeed special time of the year. It is a series of traditions, which hopefully will continue to endure over many, many years into the future. The longevity and endurability of these traditions, is needless to say awe inspiring. It is a part of Japan’s culture, which makes it truly unique in the world.



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